Essay on Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis



Essay on Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

Use your own words to concisely define the following terms based on the readings and class discussions we have examined so far, and give one example to support each one of your definitions (25 points). (60-word limit for each definition)



  1. Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis:

This theory argues that the structure of a language influences the thoughts and views of the culture in which the language is spoken. Take the example that Eskimos have a variety of words to describe the word ‘Snow’ in different ways because it is an aspect that is part of their culture, while people that live in Africa may not have the same issue because they are not concerned with snow as it never falls there. Culture does influence language because what people attach to themselves most is what they describe in their language.


  1. Illocutionary Speech Act:

Introduced by John Austin, it means the purpose of a speech act. It shows us what a person meant by their speech. An example, ‘You must not drink and drive’. The illocutionary of this speech act is that the speaker warns the hearer of to take a cab or have a driver when they drink. The speaker intends to prevent drunk driving.

Essay on Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

  1. Linguistic Relativity:

The structure and use of language has great effect on the speaker’s cognition. It correlates language and thought. For example, an English speaker marks verbs to indicate time while an Arabic speaker marks a verb to indicate time and gender. Personally, it will depend on context, when busy with a task a verb will be gender and time but when sitting idle, it will only be time.


  1. Directives:

Directives are types of speech acts whereby a speaker will ask the hearer to perform an action. The speaker does this because according to them, the directive is able to be carried out. An example is the directive, ‘I want you to cook dinner today.’ A directive can be a need statement, imperative, embedded, permission directive or question directive and they differ in degree of directness.


  1. Speech Communities:

A Speech community is a group of people who share variety of norms in a language and share specific social attitudes toward that language. Speaking the same language does not necessarily mean membership in the same speech community. For example, people who speak French in the world do not necessarily belong to the French community, but happen to speak the same language.


Essay on Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

  1. Application questions: Situation and Conversation Analysis
  2. Real-life situation (15 points) (250-word limit)

Read the following face-threatening situation carefully and examine the relationship between “the woman” and “me” (stands for the narrator) in the situation, then write down your analysis of what the aspects of power, distance, and degree of face threatening in such a situation mean to you respectively.


A middle-aged woman dressed casually and looked a little drunk. She got out of her big white car, which parked in front of a convenience store. She walked up to me and asked, “Hey, can you give me 50 cents? I need to make a call”. I was a little shocked at the moment but I gave her two quarters immediately. Then she said “thank you” and walked away directly into the store.


The woman was able accomplish her demand for 50 cents by manipulating power, distance, FTA. She created a sense of power through non-speech acts such as dressing casually, having a big car, and parking in front of a store to signify she really needed to make that call. Walking up to me straight and asking me directly for the money was a form of power as well. The drunken state gives her the confidence and the power to ask even though the huge distance between her and me exists. This reflects his ability to have a power to request, she may have been in need but pretending to be drunk to obtain pity. I see her as a stranger but by speaking up, she shortens that distance because I cannot just ignore her in her present condition. She states the need to make a call to do away with any doubts I might have to grant her request. She used to somehow face threatening. She said, “Can you give me 50 cents”, that is a direct directive. She used negative tone because she assumed that she was drunk, and she could hurt me.  She used face threatening effectively because I was shocked and I was afraid so, I gave her the money immediately. I also had power to say no but I gave her the money and she said thank you because she knew I would have refused but didn’t.


Essay on Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis


  1. Conversation (15 points) (300-word limit)

Analyze the following conversation carefully and then answer these questions:

  1. How do you define cultural model?
  2. What can you determine regarding the professor’s and the student’s cultural models implied in this interaction?
  3. How did the difference in cultural models for the two speakers below result in this unsuccessful conversation?
  4. Student: May I make an appointment to see you?
  5. Professor: I’m in all day tomorrow. What time would you like to come?
  6. Student: Anytime you want.
  7. Professor: OK… (Looks at his schedule), how about 11am?
  8. Student: No, I have class.
  9. Professor: OK, 1:30pm then?
  10. Student: uh, I can’t make it.
  11. (Professor looks frustrated)


Essay on Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

The professor is disappointed because it is the student who is in need but does not want to create time even when the student stated that anytime for the lecturer is okay. Cultural model is the subconscious tool that people belong to and they live in where they share their beliefs, attitudes, and common behavior. Each country has its own culture models that influence its people. Culture models guide people to interact and communicate with each other appropriately. It shapes their thoughts and believes as Sapir-Whorf hypothesis claimed that culture affects the language, and the language affects the cognition process. In this conversation, there are two different culture models. One is the professor’s culture model, and the other one is the student. That is obvious in this dialogue between the professor and the student, and both of them reached to disappointed result.

This dialogue implied that culture models coordinate with each other. The two cultural models fill in the gap between differentiations. People from different culture models can be able to communicate with each other appropriately, but it is not simply they can accomplish the communication. It requires understanding the differences and exploring a connection between them. Indeed, the place that two speakers are in determines which culture model will has the major impact of their interaction. In this conversation, there is misunderstanding between their culture models. The professor gave the student full daytime to choose, but the student failed to choose. The professor may believe in the instructor culture but the student who is in the student culture does not get this and ends up wasting the professor’s time.

The differences in cultural models between the two speakers result in unsuccessful conversation because they do not understand each other. The student asked his professor for an appointment, and he requested the professor to determine the time. However, he failed to choose a time, and he did not suggest time either and he noting that he could not avail himself. The lecturer really wants to avail himself for the student but the needy student is not as concerned.